ROCKin’ animation

Kristen Laing

Monday, February 18, 2013

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THINK fast, what's your favourite cartoon? Whether you chose Family Guy or Sponge Bob, we're sure you have no idea of the amount of work it takes to get your cartoon from the initial concept to the product of colour, motion and laughter, beamed to your television sets.

Well, TEENage had no clue either, so we went to a small animation studio, right here in Jamaica, to find out.

Reel Rock GSW Studio, under GSW Animations, is an animation studio, which has already made a mark in the international animation market.

Though not the first Jamaican studio of its kind, the one-year-old Reel Rock is already a major contender in the animation market, having just completed a project called Quiz Time for Studio Red Frog in France.

Quiz Time, which airs on Disney Junior in France, is a series of four-minute cartoons geared towards the two to five age group, in which the host, Zack, asks the audience at home questions to help him solve the various situations in which the rest of the team find themselves.

Apart from Quiz Time, this team of 12 animators is also working on a public education project for the University of the West Indies and a 13-episode, half hour per episode project for the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO).

They are also working on a pilot project for an international client which will be marketed to Nickelodeon, and Disney Junior; and on four Reel Rock GSW original productions, Roachneto, Patty Shop, Vex and Abeng, which can be found on their website

"We have a very talented group of young people who have really great ideas. Some of them were their senior projects for the Edna Manley School of the Visual and Performing Arts programme. We've taken some of those projects and allowed them to begin the development process," said executive director of GSW Animations, Wayne Sinclair.

So what does it take to get cartoons from concept to publication?

According to production supervisor and animator, Crystal Paul, animation has three components: pre-production, production and post-production. Pre-production includes scripting, storyboarding, illustrating the backgrounds, characters, and effects, as well as recording the dialogue; while production has you drawing or replicating the characters in frame by frame movements. In post-production the dialogue, music and sound effects are added.

"The animation of the cartoon itself that is just making the characters move — is very labour-intensive. When you look at a show like The Simpsons, it — takes a studio of about 60 to 70 animators 11 to 12 weeks to complete just one 22-minute episode," she said.

Like with most of their international clients, who are just outsourcing animation, work on Quiz Time was limited strictly to animation. The studio sent them all the assets they needed to work with, that is the characters, backgrounds, storyboards, and dialogue, and they just made the characters move.

But when it comes to local clients the team finds that there is a lot more work to do.

"They usually come with a concept and a character and want you to make a cartoon out of it, not understanding that there is an extensive pre-production process. A script has to be written, characters and backgrounds designed, and there is a lot of audio work and dialogue to be recorded before you get into the animation so that the animators can lipsync the animations to the actual words," Sinclair said.

So, has Reel Rock piqued your interest in illustration/animation?

Maybe you have what it takes to join their team.

"We are looking for persons with artistic ability that can draw and illustrate. The more experience they have around graphics packages like the Adobe Suite would help as well. We're just looking for people with great work ethic and a passion for what they are doing," Sinclair said.

"If you have not left school yet, then definitely continue school, go on to art school if you can, and join one of the various local Facebook animation groups. Networking is your way in."

Two local Facebook groups with a strong focus on animation and design can be seen here: Jamaica Animation Nation Network (JANN) and Jamaica Design Association (JDA).

If you want to find out more about REEL ROCK GSW or Jamaica's animation industry, check out interview with Reel Rock's production supervisor and animator Crystal Paul on our website.






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